For many years after college I had no capacity to repay my student debt. I was scraping by, smuggling Indian saris to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Ceylonese coconut oil to India, whiskey from Pondicherry (now Puducherry) to Madras (now Chennai) and was barely surviving. Sometimes I would score big by sending some kif from Morocco or black Mazar hash from Afghanistan to NY, but mostly I just managed to stay alive. After my sojourn through Asia, I worked in a mediation center in Amsterdam and made around $50 a week. Eventually I lucked out and got offered a big corporate job in L.A. and went from living outside of the money-economy to being able to write a check for the whole debt in one shot. I call that good luck.
When I hear about how people who paid off their debt resent the idea of Biden forgiving student debt now, I just shake my head and laugh. There are some uptight assholes like that… but they’re die-hard Republicans anyway, not normal people. Today I saw three types of conservatives warning against debt forgiveness: an anti-Trump conservative Republican, an arm of the official Trumpist GOP and a conservative pretend-Democrat. First off, every progressive seems to want to forgive all student debt, as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie have been advocating:
One of the most conservative think tanks inside the Democratic establishment is the deceptively-named Progressive Policy Institute, which might be considered progressive compared to a far right Republican policy institute but not by anyone remotely involved with actual progressive policy. They're as hard right as you can get and still pretend to be part of the Democratic Party coalition. Conservative Democrat Ben Ritz is the director of their Center for Funding America’s Future, best known for initiatives to undermine Social Security and Medicare. In an OpEd for The Hill this morning, Ritz, after disparaging “left wing activists,” urged Biden to not cancel a penny of student debt for 6 reasons: claims it’s inflationary (the false GOP argument); claims it’s a give away for elites paid for by workers (another false GOP argument); claims it distracts from “the real problem of college affordability (it doesn’t in any way); claims it’s a “dangerous precedent” to do without going through Congress; claims it’s bad politics— which it isn’t— and claims “there are better tools available to help struggling borrowers,” citing… nothing.
That looks like very good politics but this is what the NRCC ran on their website today:
That went along with about two dozen cut-and-paste attack ads targeting Democrats they think their extremist candidates can beat in November:
Lifelong Wisconsin conservative, Charlie Sykes, reborn as an anti-Trumper, couldn't stop himself from attacking the idea of debt forgiveness at The Bulwark this morning with reflexive conservative dogma towards anything smacking of social or economic equality: “Forgive me for raining on this parade of free money, but student debt ‘forgiveness’ is both bad politics and bad policy.”
Ro Khanna (D-CA) has been forcefully championing a fair break for working class students since he was elected to Congress. This morning he pushed back on conservative narratives that have filled the media, telling me that "If the reporting is correct, I’m glad that President Biden is finally ready to act on student loan debt. Canceling up to $10,000 dollars will help a lot of Americans struggling, but it is not enough. I know this from personal experience-- when I was younger, I had to take out more than $100,000 in loans to pay for school. We have to be clear about the facts here to push back on claims that cancelation would be regressive: The people who would benefit most from student loan forgiveness are those with the least amount of wealth. It would be particularly meaningful for Americans who took on student debt, but didn’t complete a degree and Black Americans who are historically more likely to take out student loans and struggle to pay them off. Every progressive should be pushing President Biden to be bolder and go bigger on this issue. Student loan debt is crushing working Americans. It’s time to deliver real relief."